Poverty Among K-12 Students Up More in Private Schools Than Public Schools

The Washington Post  and the New York Times picked up a Southern Education Foundation report about the increasing levels of low-income students in public schools. Here, I supplement that report with my own calculations from the American Community Survey.  The 2000-2013 ACS data shows that the rise in poverty among K-12 students is a general economic phenomenon affecting private and public school students alike. In fact, the private school poverty rate rose faster over this period than the public school poverty rate.

To start, the ACS data shows that the percentage of students attending public and private schools did not change over the 2000-2013 period. During each year, around 90% of K-12 students attended public schools while 10% attended private schools.

Here are the poverty rates for public and private school students across this period:

The poverty rate for public schools increased from 17.8% in 2000 to 22.9% in 2013. This is a 28.6% increase. The poverty rate for private schools increased from 7.7% in 2000 to 12.5% in 2013. This is a 62.4% increase. Across the period, the public school poverty rate was, on average, 2.1 times higher than the private school poverty rate.

Here is the same graph as above using 1.5x the poverty line:

The percent of public school students below 1.5x the poverty line increased by from 29% to 35% (a rise of 20.6%). For private school students, the figure increased from 13.4% to 20% (a rise of 49.1%).

Here is the same graph using 2x the poverty line:

The percent of public school students below 2x the poverty line increased from 40% to 45.6% (a rise of 14%). The figure for private school students increased from 20.4% to 27.4% (a rise of 34%).

It's clear from these graphs that the biggest increases occurred between 2008 and 2010, which were the years immediately following the Great Recession. To better see this, I've combined the three prior graphs into one graph, with each line indexed to 100 at 2007.

As you can see, the various lines mainly just coast along steadily between 2000 and 2007 and then fire off right after the Great Recession.

Click here for a more detailed spreadsheet.

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